The pioneering film- and television series-streaming website, Netflix, was finally launched in Belgium this past September. Surprising to see it take over a decade for Netflix to determine Belgium worthy of its services. I remember almost 12 years ago when I first started my Netflix subscription in college. While I should have been studying or drinking too much, weekly I would receive three DVDs at a time through the mail. Times have changed and so has Netflix offerings. Everything is now consumed in an instant. No more shipping DVDs back and waiting four days for your next shipment. To entice the fellow Belgian or ex-pat, Netflix has offered the first month free of charge. I assume that due to the limited catalog at the moment they have launched with they are waiting for more subscriptions before spending more on licensing fees.
Although the catalogue at the moment won’t take more than 10 minutes to run through from top to bottom, I’d like to point out that Netflix does provide hundreds of quality films that even the harshest of critics would find comfort in at some point. I’d like to give a little assistance for those who are either debating whether to sign up for a Netflix account or are too lazy to search. This is purely selfish since as more people sign up for Netflix the more Netflix will expand their offering.
Before I divulge the top ten, I’d like to take a moment to present some of the other terrific films that didn’t make the top ten (again to entice people to sign up – COME ON WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?). I’m sure that some of these would be on either James’s or Colin’s top ten if they had made this list. But they didn’t. So here are some of the great films that didn’t make the list: Silence of the Lambs (1991), Mystic River (2003), L.A. Confidential (1997), No Country For Old Men (2007), A History of Violence (2005), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Paris, je t’aime (2006), Sideways (2004) and Brokeback Mountain (2005).
Okay, now for my TOP TEN FILMS AVAILABLE ON BELGIUM NETFLIX:
In a year of great cinema, David Fincher’s Benjamin Button still stands out in my mind above the rest. The term ‘youth is wasted on the young’ no longer applies as the main character, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), was born with several aging disorders. Disorders that create a story about how one man’s life would occur if he were born in the grave and aged towards the cradle. More specifically, Benjamin Button is physically born an old man and ages into a child. Like placing your finger on a clock and moving the arm counter-clockwise, but time still ticks away. Poetic and jarring in it’s delivery, Benjamin Button tackles some grand notions of life, love, and time.
My father’s Caddyshack is my Ghostbusters. There are just certain comedies that resonate beyond one’s understanding and continues to tickle my funny bone even after all these years. I can remember dressing up for Halloween year after year after year as a Ghostbuster. Now, watching this comedy, it makes me realize just how dirty and mature some of the jokes really were. Maybe that’s where my crude sense of humor was fostered.
8). Drive (2011)
My God, did I love this film when it came out. Nicolas Winding Refn created something special. From the opening scene’s car chase to when the first song’s soundtrack blared throughout the empty theatre, it had me hooked. To give a little perspective, I ranked Drive as my second favorite film of 2011 behind a film I now regard as my favorite film of all time. A high honour for an uber-violent, incredibly stylized sleazefest, with unique villains played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman.
A must watch, simply just for the opening scene and credits.
7). Goodfellas (1990)
In my opinion, this is Martin Scorsese’s best piece of work and is widely regarded as one of the greatest mobster movie ever made. It is also one that I’ve watched dozens of times growing up and have never gotten tired of over the years. Perhaps Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta’s best acting performances making it an all time classic gangster film behind only The Godfather (1971) (which is also available on Netflix Belgium coincidentally). Goodfellas just drips from screen. So much so that you’ll smell of garlic and chianti when it’s over.
Another David Fincher classic makes the list, but for a completely different reason. I hope that everyone knows and has connected with this film at some point in their life. From shifting The Narrator’s (Edward Norton) life from a manically depressing working class drone to a hallucinating, anti-consumer psychopath, Fight Club is one of the most mind expanding films I’ve ever seen. Yes, there is a lot of violence. Yes, there is a lot of offensive dialogue. But there are discussions and ideas most people were not aware of in the late 90s that still resonate today.
5). The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
To avoid sounding like a stubborn American that only includes Hollywood flair, I’ve included the best French film I’ve seen in quite a while. Packed with emotion, Diving Bell is based on the incredibly depressing true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby. Bauby was the editor of Elle, when one day he suffered a very specific stroke which caused him to lose all physical functions of his body. That is all functions of his body exception his brain’s activity remained unphased. Therefore, his mind is present and sharp, but his body — with the exception of one eye — is paralyzed. The use of the camera to help tell the story of a man frozen within his own body is both electrifying and terrifying. At the risk of sounding insensitive, I will venture that you will be frozen in your seat.
I remember that, after a few strong beers, Colin claimed he loathed this masterpiece with a fiery passion. I’m not putting it on the list simply to get a rise out of him, but every person is allowed to be entirely wrong on so many levels. Sofia Coppola’s breakthrough was marketed as a comedy simply because it had the living legend Bill Murray in the leading role. Sure Murray does some pretty funny (some may even say offensive) impressions of Japanese people on occasion, but the connection between Scarlett Johansson and Murray radiates on the screen. A surprise given the age and maturity differences of both characters. It’s well known that Bill is more or less playing himself, while Scarlett mirrors Sofia during an earlier time in her life. It’s really a simple story of people surrounded by shallow and fake personalities while they look for something true and tangible.
The final scene’s whisper captures the breadth of the film perfectly. Bravo!
Bryan Singer best material was completed well before he became known for all those big-budget X-Men remakes. The greatest trick a director can pull is keeping the audience mystified until the very end. A cast of brilliant actors (Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro etc.) lead the audience of a capper that keeps you asking questions until the very end of the film. This is a movie that has been copied time and time again, but never matched in execution.
2). Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Watching any Wes Anderson film allows you to enter a different world. This comedy follows a young boy scout and his crush as they run away from their respective caretakers. Him, his scout troop, and her, her dysfunctional family. Trapped on a tiny island, the two try to live on the young scout’s survival skills and their jovial ove. A truly romantic film, even though the two actors are barely teenagers (maybe). I can’t think of a more pure and enjoyable film to watch with your significant other. Such an agreeable film on every level.
1). Pulp Fiction (1994)
Quentin Tarantino’s classic is perhaps the most rewatchable film ever. With so many levels, interesting characters, and witty dialogue, Pulp Fiction is a modern-day cult classic for a reason. This film is so hip even hipsters won’t say they don’t adore it. This film is so cool even the French wouldn’t give it a passive ‘buff’. This film is so… okay you get it.
Example of the dialogue: “I love you honey bunny. Everybody be cool, this here is a robbery!”
Additional five indie films on Netflix you probably haven’t seen (but totally should!)
50/50 (2011) – I dare you to pretend you don’t have allergies during this comedy.
Adventureland (2009) – Pure, simple comedy about growing up in America.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) – A fantasy driven by current-day, post-Hurricane Katrina.
Once (2006) – Who doesn’t enjoy a couple Irish folks singing? Well, unless they force their latest CD on your itunes that is.
Away We Go (2009) – Sam Mendes continues his assault on people who choose to waste their lives in America’s suburbs. This is the most uplifting of those films (American Beauty (1999) and Revolutionary Road (2008)).